Human Relations Commission hosts forum to combat human trafficking

At just 15 years old, Tajuan McCarty was homeless and forced into prostitution by a man in his 30s. More than a decade later, she finally escaped the sex trade and since then established two safe houses that have provided security for more than 200 trafficking victims.

McCarty, who is the founder of The Wellhouse, a Birmingham-based, rescue and rehabilitation organization for victims of sexual exploitation, will tell her story at an upcoming community forum on human trafficking. Sponsored by the Gwinnett County Human Relations Commission and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, the forum is 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 2140 Beaver Ruin Road in Norcross.

Michelle Anderson, coordinator of Georgia Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, Bob Rodgers, president and CEO of Street Grace, Sgt. Austin Godfrey, Gwinnett County Police Department Vice Unit, Tami Wilder, executive director of Positive Impact International, and Mary Frances Bowley, founder and executive director of Wellspring Living, an Atlanta-based organization that provides housing, trauma-care and education for sexual exploitation victims will also present.

“The problem is real,” said Godfrey. ”People don’t want to think that it’s happening but it is, and it’s happening right here in Gwinnett County.”

An estimated 374 girls between the ages of 12 and 14 are commercially sexually exploited monthly in Georgia, according to the Center for Public Policy Studies. On April 24, Gwinnett County authorities conducted a sting that netted 23 men on charges related to underage sex trafficking.

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Established by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in 1990, the Human Relations Commission is composed of 13 people of different ethnicities and backgrounds and is charged with the mission to encourage, promote and develop fair and equal treatment and opportunity for all persons regardless of race, religion, creed, color, age, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

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